The writer of Hebrews wanted to teach his readers some mature doctrines relating to the Old Testament character Melchizedek. He had a lot to say about it but hesitated because he said in Hebrews 5:11 that his readers were dull or slow of hearing. Jesus used a similar phrase in his rebuke of a couple of disciples. They too were dull or slow of hearing and believing. In Luke 24:25-27, Jesus speaks to the two men on the road to Emmaus, “And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory? And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

The point of the author’s rebuke of the Hebrews as well as Jesus’ rebuke of the two travelers is that they didn’t understand how the Old Testament was a progressive revelation of God’s salvation of mankind through the promised seed of the woman mentioned in Genesis 3:15. Actually “dull” hearts and minds is how Jesus used to refer to those who did not get or believe in who He was and what He, as the promised Messiah, was to accomplish on behalf of those who would believe in Him. The dull hearts, deaf ears, and blind eyes all refer to the comprehension of Christ and His complete fulfillment of the Old Testament and His complete sufficiency to save us from our sins. Jesus mentions this in Matthew 13:15. He says, “For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.”

The writer of Hebrews wants his readers to mature in their grasp of the truths of Jesus as seen in the Scriptures from beginning to end. He wants them to see, hear, and understand how Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. He frequently challenges them to “consider” or to “think about” or to “reflect on” Jesus. This is what will mature them and enable them to become teachers of Jesus as well. But their dull hearts and minds have lulled them into a lethargic stupor regarding the things of Christ and allowed them to drift back into a religion of works. Hebrews 5:12a says, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God.” What does the writer mean by “the basic principles of the oracles of God?” Hagner correctly understands this writing, “This probably refers to the basics of the Christian gospel, but as contained in the OT. If the readers still need elementary Christian exegesis of the OT, how will they move to such exegesis at the more advanced level?”[1] Jesus is the oracle of God.

[1] Donald A. Hagner, Hebrews, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011), 86.